Sunday, March 16, 2008

Philly Beer Week: One for the books

Philly Beer Week 2008 is over, and by almost every measure it was a success. A surprisingly solid success, actually; most of the people involved who I talked to were surprised at just how well it did go. Events were largely sold out: there were people standing in line at the Grey Lodge wheat beer brunch, my Tria tasting -- all the Tria tastings sold out, the Italian/French beer dinner I hosted at Chick's Cafe Monday night was all but sold out, and my brunch at Fork today sold out (thanks to everyone who came to my events). Even the events that didn't sell out did well. I only heard of two or three events that largely crashed out, but with the number of events that took place, that's not too surprising.

There's obviously room for improvement. We're hoping to see more folks from farther out of town next year (and planning how to do that). We'd like to see a bit more planning on participation with brewers/importers and venues. We hope to get more partnerships with larger groups and sponsors. It would be good to get more press, further in advance (which was tough, admittedly, given no track record and people not even being sure what PBW would look like).

But everyone was impressed, and the city's beer credibility has sky-rocketed. As one brewery rep from New York (who will remain nameless to protect what's left of his reputation) put it, "Beer has one name on the East Coast: Philadelphia!"

9 comments:

THOMAS 'Tom' CIZAUSKAS said...

Hearty congratulations to Philly-area beer drinkers, brewers, and bar/restaurants for a job well done (and you too, Lew!).

I wasn't able to attend, but reports from associates and friends were nothing but positive and enthusiastic.

Kevin said...

I think that this has made the best beer city an even better beer city. I think a few bars have realized that they are ready to take the next step whether it be to add a few higher end bottles, a wider craft selection, more adventurous styles, perhaps a hand pump or two, etc. Speaking with Dave from the Good Dog at the Real Ale Festival I learned that PBW made him realize he could do a weekly gravity pour night. I am sure that there are stories like this throughout the city. I feel that this was as much a tool for the bars to learn about their patrons and potential patrons as it was for beer drinkers to learn about beer place, brewers, and beer. All in all this seemed to be a success at all levels.

Anonymous said...

Kevin well said but to be honest when all this hub bub settles most everyone will go back to drinking pabsts and the yellow necture from the guys who will give it away their sales have dipped the last few months and this craft loving city will be in for alot of pain in their pocketbooks..But you know some one some where will fill the void with their mass marketed piss they call beer...

Lew Bryson said...

Anony,

The whole reason this worked is because there are enough people in this area who are not drinking "pabsts and the yellow necture." I don't see any "gap" to be filled. Philly is actually in decent shape vis-a-vis any upcoming recession; see today's Inquirer Business section on why. See you next year for Philly Beer Week 2009; work on your attitude in the meantime. Hell, work on your punctuation, too.

Anonymous said...

Hey professor my only point was when things are tight people do not stop drinking beer they just drink cheaper beer.No one said this was not a fine event for the city and the craft industry had a few pints of yards and stouts myself stop being so uptight and join the real world..

Lew Bryson said...

Little passive-aggressive thing going on, buddy? Look at what I said: first off, Philly's not in a recession. Just like Michigan's worse off than the rest of the nation, it looks like we're going to be doing better. But yes, people may drink cheaper beer...but I don't think someone who's regularly drinking craft is going to start sucking down Pabst. Could be a real opportunity for the folks at Matt's and The Lion, who do some real nice beers for a very reasonable price.
If sales dipped the last few months...look at the calendar. January and February are the traditional low spots in the beer sales year, anyone in the biz knows that. Hang loose, don't get with the negative waves.

sam k said...

Good point in that there are may quality, lower priced alternatives to high-end crafts. Your hauling a case of Reading to Fork was a great example. That beer gets raves everywhere I have taken it. I just wish it was available in my part of PA. Last time I was in Reading it was somewhere in the $17 range (pre -price increases), which puts it pretty near Pabst pricing! Relative value will ALWAYS exist in the beer world. I have called it the "price/quality ratio" for years. Reading is a good example of a beer being high on the scale. Some truly great beers are held back in this formula by their inherently high price. Think $52 Double Simcoe (post-price increases).

Anonymous said...

Lew your praise for the lion brewery amazes me they might have renderd more small crafts and contract beers out of business than any contract brewery in the united states but they are making a new beer called knights head that will put the brewery on the tip of everyones minds as the premier beer of the year,just ask your friend fron center beer about this new selection from the lion..Recession get off the pipe and take your head out of the sand the best beer the lion puts out now is lionshead at 12.99 case thats after the last two price increases fron the new owners who know more about franks black cherry or root beer than beer..Why do you think so many people are drinking this tiger piss not beacause they have a choice between lionshead and double simcoe its what they have to spend..Talk about beer not the economy in phila ride around the streets lately no traffic seen the faces at the gas pumps.Yes you are correct January and Febuary are very slow months just ask your friends on bennett road this year is alot worse and when you buy a case of beer for 20.00 and a carton of cigs for 50.00 and if your wife happens to smoke and on occassion quaff down some double simcoe ipa one of the most extreme beers on the east coast as sam suggests or ask Mr Weyerbacher how many cases sold since the last price increase and by the way a finer person in the beer business you will ever meet ...so please look around you my friend their is pain and it will be worse before it get better..

Lew Bryson said...

You again...

I don't have time or inclination to deal with all this...but a couple points. I did just talk to Dan Weirback (Mr. Weyerbacher) this week, and he told me Double Simcoe sales were actually up in the first quarter. I keep seeing stories in the Inky that indicate Philly's not doing that bad: real estate market's one of the better in the country, for instance. I don't know where you're driving, but there are just as many cars on the road as ever when I head down to Center City.
And you're dissing The Lion? Who have they put out of business? For God's sake, they've barely been able to stay in business themselves! They're doing well now, and I think they're going to do even better: slag the new owners all you want, but they're committed to increased promotion, and I think that's all the brewery needs.

As I've said many times over the past 8 years, the craft brewing industry is big enough, good enough, and solid enough to take care of itself. They've reached the point where competition shouldn't scare them. They can handle it. No kid gloves.